About the event
Edinburgh Science is more than just an organisation that runs a Festival. Our schools touring programme, Generation Science, is the UK’s longest running STEM outreach programme for primary schools, with 2020 marking our 29th year of operation. Every year we send between 10–15 interactive ‘education environments’, (linked to the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence) around the country, visiting schools in each local authority in Scotland and delivering around 1,500 workshops and performances for primary children.
Our Generation Science shows and workshops are designed to engage young learners using larger-than-life props, actions and experiments. We can’t recreate all that in your living room, but we hope that these activities can get you thinking about the topics in our shows.
Power from the People
Best suited for ages 7–11
Power from the People is an interactive workshop that explores electricity; what it is and how it is produced. Children go on a journey as Electric Scientists to discover how we can produce electricity from the movement of our bodies. Children explore the principles of electricity using circuits, flowing electrons, magnets and capacitors. As a final challenge, the children work in small groups to assemble their own generator and produce electricity from their own movement.
The following activities are designed to get young people to think about electricity and magnetism, how electricity can be stored and the science behind electromagnets.
Supported by EDF Renewables
These questions are designed to get you and your home learners talking about the science behind these activities. We don’t expect you to know everything there is to know about electricity, but we do find that exploring and questioning what we know inspires us to find out more. Try using some of these Big Questions below to spark curiosity and see what other questions come up as you are completing these activities. We have provided some smaller steps under each question to help with your discussions as you’re exploring.
Starter Question: What is electricity?
Q: Can you see electricity? What does it flow in?
Hint: You can’t see electricity, because electricity happens when tiny charged particles, called electrons, flow. Electrons are far too small to see even with a microscope. But you can see the effect of flowing electrons when you turn on a light, or use your phone
Q: Why is electricity dangerous?
Hint: Electricity can flow through humans too – the salt water in our bodies can conduct electricity. It can disrupt our heart rhythm and other important parts of us.
Q: Is electricity the same a lightning? Why does lightning happen?
Hint: Lightning is the flow of charged particles, so it is the similar to electricity we use in our homes, but it is very uncontrolled. In huge cloud systems, the movement makes charged particles transfer from one place to another. These particles build up, then release all at once.
Q: Can you create electricity? Can you make electrons that flow?
Hint: Electrons are a part of every atom. You can’t create new ones. To generate electricity, you allow electrons to flow along a wire. This can only happen in materials with free electrons, like metals or graphite.
Starter Question: Where does electricity come from?
Q: Can you find some items in your house that use a battery? What is inside a battery that makes it work?
Hint: When you use a battery, a chemical reaction makes electricity flow around the device. Batteries can have nickel, lead, lithium and other chemicals that make them work
Q: Where does the electricity coming from a plug in the wall start?
Hint: Almost all electricity starts by spinning generators - in power stations, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams. Turbines spin generators to generate electricity flow. Solar panels use energy from the sun to generate electricity
Q: Can you store electricity? What can you store it in?
Hint: Batteries contain chemicals that have the potential to allow electricity to flow. Capacitors have materials in them that allow electrons to be held, and then released to allow electricity to flow. Cruachan Dam is a pumped-storage water reservoir in Scotland. It allows water to be pumped uphill when there is excess electricity, and then released through turbines to generate electricity when its needed. The electricity isn’t being stored, but the potential to generate it is.
Extension activities and questions
See if you can find out the amount of electricity that appliances in your house use. Things like kettles and microwaves usually show the amount used in watts, with a “W” symbol. Which appliance uses the most electricity? What about when you think about how much you use each appliance during the day?
Can you find out how much of each source of electricity we generate in Scotland? Look for types of power like gas, nuclear, wind and hydroelectric. Can you group these into renewable and non-renewable sources?
Try our other Kid’s Lab activities here
Links to help your young learners
BBC clip about Faraday’s discoveries with electricity. Suitable for 7+
A video about our national grid, and how they make sure millions of houses and businesses can all get the electricity they need. Suitable for 7+
A BBC Teach episode about electricity generation using a reservoir here in Scotland, including a visit to a Munro and a hydroelectric power station inside the mountain. Suitable for 5–7 year olds.
BBC Teach Live Lesson recording about electricity, circuits and batteries. Age 9–11
The power of batteries in a circuit. Age 7–11
Bitesize resources about electricity. Ages 7–11